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Cannes 2018: The hot tickets in the race for this year’s Palme d’Or

Memento Films | Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in Asghar Farhadi’s festival curtain-raiser “Everybody Knows”.

Red carpet photographers may rue the (relative) lack of stardust at the 71st Cannes Film Festival. But the lively and refreshing roster of films competing for the Palme d’Or this year promises plenty of tasty spectacles.

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The world’s most glamorous film festival kicks off on the French Riviera on Tuesday, and those fretting over the dearth of Hollywood stars this year will find comfort in the curtain-raiser, featuring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Cinema’s power couple stars in Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows”, alongside Argentina’s Ricardo Darin. A missing-girl psychological thriller, this is Farhadi’s first Spanish-language effort. It will be interesting to see how the acclaimed Iranian auteur deals with a genre movie – in a language he doesn’t speak.

Another mysteriously disappeared girl is at the heart of “Under the Silver Lake” by US helmer David Robert Mitchell, whose indie horror “It Follows” brought fright and delight in equal measure to the Croisette four years ago. Described as a “neo-noir comedy drama”, it stars Andrew Garfield as a sweet but aimless young man who goes hunting for his vanished neighbour, played by Riley Keough. The trailer points to a stylish thriller peppered with surreal comedic touches.

One of the bizarre clues Garfield’s character stumbles upon while combing through Los Angeles is a graffiti reading “Beware the dog killer”. Set against the very different backdrop of Rome’s run-down suburbs, killer dogs should feature prominently in Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman”, about a gentle dog groomer and his hulking and bullying boxer friend. Inspired by a grisly murder that shocked Italy in 1980, Garrone’s latest Cannes entry promises a return to the naturalistic style of his savage Neapolitan mob drama “Gomorrah”. A two-time Grand Prix winner, the Italian director has credited lead actor Marcello Fonte with inspiring him to complete a project that had been dormant for 12 years.

A brutal murder is also on the cards in Yann Gonzalez’s Paris-based “Knife + Heart”, one of four French entries in the year’s Palme d’Or contest. The young director was described as an Almodovar in the making after his ultra-stylised erotic drama “You And The Night” (2013). His new work, set in 1979, features pop icon and actress Vanessa Paradis as a gay-porn producer who finds herself investigating the above-mentioned crime.

A still from "Knife + Heart", starring Vanessa Paradis.
A still from "Knife + Heart", starring Vanessa Paradis. Ella Herme

Move forward a decade or so and the French capital plays host to Christophe Honoré’s “Sorry Angel” (“Plaire, aimer et courir vite” in the original French), this time in tandem with the Breton city of Rennes. A tale of love and disease, it follows a complex relationship involving a young student from Brittany (Vincent Lacoste) and a 40-year-old Parisian writer played by Pierre Deladonchamps, who starred in the brilliant gay-cruising drama “Stranger by the Lake” (2013).

Vincent Lacoste (left) and Pierre Deladonchamps in Christophe Honoré's "Sorry Angel".
Vincent Lacoste (left) and Pierre Deladonchamps in Christophe Honoré's "Sorry Angel". Les Films Pelléas

With the festival’s home country gripped by strikes, a social-realist drama about striking workers was de rigueur; and who else but Vincent Lindon could provide the lead role? The veteran French actor gets a chance to bounce back after last year’s silly “Rodin” biopic foundered on the Croisette. He teams up again with director Stéphane Brizé, three years after their impressive “The Measure of a Man” won Lindon the Best Actor award. This time he stars as a workers’ representative battling to save jobs amid a looming factory shutdown in “At War”.

Vincent Lindon in Stéphane Brizé's "At War".
Vincent Lindon in Stéphane Brizé's "At War". Nord-Ouest Films

Real war sets the stage for Eva Husson’s “Girls of the Sun”, another French movie and one of only three competition entries by a woman director. Unusually for a war film, this one stars mainly female combatants, the members of an all-female Kurdish battalion fighting to liberate their homeland from the Islamic State group. Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, who last appeared at Cannes as a too-sweet cupcake-baking housewife in Jim Jarmusch’s “Patterson”, stars as the commander of the battalion, while Emmanuelle Bercot plays a French journalist covering the battle.

Golshifteh Farahani leads the way in Eva Husson's "Girls of the Sun".
Golshifteh Farahani leads the way in Eva Husson's "Girls of the Sun". Wild Bunch

>> Click here for part 2 of the Cannes competition line-up

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